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Acute Diarrhea


Acute diarrhea starts quickly and lasts a short time, usually 1 to 3 days. It can last up to 2 weeks. You may have crampy pain, or feel like you are passing water. You may not be able to control your diarrhea. Acute diarrhea usually stops on its own.



The following medicines are for adults only:

  • Diarrhea medicine: This is over-the-counter medicine that helps slow or stop your diarrhea.
  • Antibiotics: You may need this medicine if your diarrhea is caused by bacteria.
  • Take your medicine as directed: Call your primary healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why you take them. Take the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists.

Self Care:

The following may be used in adults or children:

  • Drink liquids: Drink clear liquids, such as water or clear juices. You will need to drink more liquids than usual. Ask your primary healthcare provider how much liquid you should drink each day.
  • Drink oral rehydration solution: Oral rehydration solution (ORS) has the right amounts of water, salts, and sugar that you need to replace lost body fluids. Ask what kind of ORS you or your child should use, how much to drink, and where to get it.
  • Eat bland foods: Eat bland foods, such as bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast, as soon as you can. Avoid fatty, sugary, or greasy foods. They may worsen your diarrhea. You may add chicken, fish, potatoes, or bread as your bowel movements harden. Ask your primary healthcare provider for more information on what food to eat and the best food to give your child.

Follow up with your or your child's primary healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Contact you or your child's primary healthcare provider if:

  • You have abdominal pain and a fever higher than 103°F.
  • You have trouble eating and drinking because of vomiting.
  • You are thirsty or have a dry mouth.
  • You urinate less than usual.
  • You feel tired, restless, or irritated.
  • Your eyes look slightly sunken, or they produce few tears when you cry.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You are unable to drink any liquids.
  • Your eyes look deeply sunken, or you have no tears when you cry. You are exhausted or depressed and not urinating. Your infant has a sunken soft spot on his head. These are all serious signs of dehydration.
  • Your heart is pounding, or you cannot feel your pulse.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Acute Diarrhea (Discharge Care)

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